Billionaire Jared Isaacman’s trip to space brings in $125 million to St. Jude Hospital

Last September, billionaire Jared Isaacman took both his flying and his philanthropy to a much higher level. Isaacman led the first all-civilian trip to space, accompanied by a physician assistant, a community-college professor, and a data engineer. Isaacman paid for and commanded the SpaceX flight, known as Inspiration4, and he vowed to donate even more than the cost of the flight to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Isaacman and his wife, Monica, personally donated $125 million to the hospital, and contributions by SpaceX founder Elon Musk ($55 million) and many others ultimately raised the total given to St. Jude to more than $243 million.

The Isaacmans’ giving earned them the No. 20 spot on the Philanthropy 50, the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s 22nd annual ranking of America’s biggest donors.

Isaacman has always aspired to give back. Even when he was in his early 20s, he was making regular contributions to the Goodwill Rescue Mission, in Newark, not far from where he grew up in Westfield, New Jersey.

Isaacman says his urge to help stems from seeing families and children “living out of tires” during a family vacation to Cancun when he was young.

“Sometimes it’s just an unfortunate hand that you get dealt — I find that very, very unfair,” Isaacman says. “My initial exposure was of people living in horrible circumstances. But there are other examples of that — such as getting a bad cancer diagnosis. So I want to support the treatment of that cancer, or, if that’s not possible, give children a memory through Make-a-Wish.”

The contributions to St. Jude are unrestricted and will support work in a new 625,000-square-foot research facility, named the Inspiration4 Advanced Research Center. The funds will also go toward St. Jude’s six-year, $11.5 billion strategic plan to accelerate cancer research and treatment worldwide. Monica Isaacman’s family is originally from Chile, and she’s especially interested, according to Jared, in seeing St. Jude treatments get to other parts of the world.